How to prepare your home for winter

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Admiral's tips to help prepare your home for winter. Find out more about everything from loft insulations to clearing your guttering

winter home

When temperatures drop, it's a good idea to carry out a few quick jobs around your home and garden to prepare for the colder months.

Here are some easy, cost-effective steps you can take to help prevent any damage to your property this winter.

Prepare your garden for winter weather 

You should start your winter preparations outside; if you have loose items in your garden or on your balcony, bring them inside or secure them where they are. 

Watching your patio set fly past the window is bad news, but even worse if it flies through the window.

Low hanging tree branches could cause chaos in high winds. If you have trees in your garden make sure you trim – or arrange to have them trimmed – before bad weather hits. 

If the trees are in a neighbour’s garden try to speak to them to avoid disputes over blame should the worst happen.

Have a look around your property and check:

  • Fences, roof tiles and outbuildings
  • The walls and chimney to make sure the bricks, rendering and mortar are in good condition
  • Gutters and downpipes to avoid any water damage from blockages
  • Aerials, satellite dishes and solar panels need to be securely fixed
  • Repair any leaking taps and think about isolating any outside taps in your garden or outbuildings, or insulating them if this is not possible. Your Admiral policy won't cover frost damage.

 

 

Preparing your home for winter weather 

When temperatures plummet it’s important to make sure you home can withstand whatever the weather may bring. 

Last winter (2018), more than 1.25 million homes nationwide experienced a boiler breakdown, leaving residents unable to heat their homes. 

During the Beast from the East, temperatures of below -10°C and wind speeds of over 60mph led to the busiest week on record for British Gas, with 104 calls for assistance coming in every second – 13 times usual call volumes.  

Hannah Hughes, a British Gas service & repair engineer, said: “Our research shows that having no heating or hot water during the colder months is people’s worst winter disaster in the home. 

“There are some really simple steps you can take to help prepare your house for winter and keep everything running like clockwork.”

It's also a good idea to put together an emergency kit containing:

  • Important documents
  • Torch
  • Spare batteries
  • First aid kit

How to insulate your home

Not only will properly insulating your home help keep you warm in the colder months, it can help keep your energy costs down and keep the property running in tip top condition. 

Here are eight ways to insulate your property:     

1. Insulation for your attic and walls  

Help keep your house warm by having good loft insulation and consider wall cavity insulation if it’s suitable for your property. This doesn't have to be a big expense; there are a number of government grants that pay for the installation. Check with your local council for more info

2. Draught excluders

Prevent heat from escaping through windows and doors by sealing any gaps with adhesive tape and use draught excluders at doors. Make sure gas fires and solid fuel burners have been maintained and serviced properly. Letterbox brushes, chimney balloons and even keyhole coverings can also make a real difference.

3. Looking after your water tank

It's important to insulate the top and sides of your water tank with sheets or a jacket filled with glass fibre matting; it'll save energy and money  

4. Lag pipes

To help prevent pipes from freezing 'lag' - or wrap - the pipes in your attic, and any pipes leading to outdoor water sources, with foam tubing. Stopping heat from escaping doesn’t just save you money, when temperatures drop below zero, it’s important to make sure the water inside your pipes doesn’t freeze and cause them to burst. Lagging materials are available from most DIY stores 

5. Bleed radiators 

Bleeding radiators will help them work more efficiently and save you money on your heating bills. If you haven’t used the heating for a while, air can enter the system and form bubbles at the top of your radiators, which stops them from working efficiently. It’s easy to do and something you can do yourself with our easy guide on how to bleed a radiator 

6. Look after your boiler 

Stay ahead of the weather and make sure your boiler’s working properly, check your central heating and have your boiler serviced yearly. The main boiler problems to be aware of are 

  • Leaking/dripping
  • Frozen pipes - with temperatures often dipping below freezing in the winter the risk of frozen pipes is very real. This can cause a blockage in your boiler. Do not attempt to thaw it yourself; you should contact a qualified professional
  • No heating
  • Loss of pressure

As one of the hardest working appliances in any home, it's inevitable things could go wrong with your boiler so proper maintenance is essential for safety, energy efficiency, saving money and longevity.

 

Save energy with an efficient boiler

According to Energy Saving Trust, boilers account for 55% of what you spend on energy bills each year, so an efficient working boiler makes a big difference. You can also get extra protection through Admiral’s Boiler Emergency Cover.

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Gas Safe Register's Head of Communications, Scott Darroch, told Admiral:

"All gas appliances in your property need to be safety checked by a Gas Safe-registered engineer annually, and services according to manufacturer's instructions.

"Any appliance not checked could leave you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning, gas leaks and explosions. It's an extremely good idea to have your gas pipework checked at the same time as having a gas safety check, every year."

Here are six warning signs you should get your appliance serviced right away: 

  1. It's not working properly
  2. It's burning with a lazy yellow flame rather than a crisp blue one
  3. Black marks/stains are evident around the appliance
  4. The pilot light keeps going out
  5. Increased condensation in the room
  6. Know the symptoms of CO poisoning: severe headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness   

7. Upgrade your thermostat to a smart meter

If you don’t already have an up-to-date thermostat, it could be a good time to shop around and even consider a smart meter that you can control through an app on your phone. Not only can you turn the heating on or off while you’re away from home, but you can control the temperature and keep track of how much you’re spending. The Money Advice service says reducing the temperature by just 1°C could cut 10% off your heating bill; this could save around £55 a year.

 

 

8. Soft furnishings for warmth 

Hanging curtains and laying rugs on hard floors are quick and easy ways to warm your home. Thick material (the thicker the better) prevents heat escaping through windows and doors. Be sure to open them in the daytime to allow any sunshine to naturally warm your property. 

It’s worth finding out if you’re eligible for extra assistance with your energy bills, especially at this time of year.  The Warm Home Discount scheme offers £140 winter rebates, while face-to-face advice, financial support and grants are available from the British Gas Energy Trust (even if you’re not a British Gas customer).  

British Gas customers who need an extra hand with the practical side of things can sign up to be on the Priority Services Register for access to additional services such as bill formats and advanced warnings if their energy supply is facing disruption.

How to prevent frozen pipes

thermostat

Being prepared for winter weather is the best way to prevent the disruption and inconvenience that frozen water pipes cause many households each year.

Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water urges people to spend a few moments to protect their pipes from bursting and causing damage that can run into thousands of pounds.

Seven tips to prevent pipes from freezing

Provided by Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water

Location, location, location

Make sure you know the location of your stop tap so you can reach it quickly in an emergency.

Remember lagging

Use good quality lagging to insulate water tanks and pipes (both those in the loft and exposed ones). Keep an eye out for frozen pipes, bursts or leaks.

Check for drips

Check dripping taps and overflows - take a quick look now to prevent your pipes from freezing or flooding; constant dripping water could freeze and cause you big problems.

Fix dripping taps

A gentle trickle of water can freeze and completely block the pipe.

Holiday thinking

If you're heading off for some winter sun for more than five days between November and March, you'll need to either keep your home constantly heated to 12 degrees Celsius or turn off the water supply at the mains and drain the system. Admiral note: if you do neither of these you may not be covered in the event of a claim.

Bleeding hell

Bleeding your radiators releases any trapped air which allows hot water to fill every part of the radiator, subsequently warming your home more efficiently.

Put it away

Store gardening equipment - you probably won't be using your gardening tools or lawnmower for a few months now. Make sure they are clean, dry and stored away securely to prevent rust or theft.

What to do if your boiler pipes have frozen

If your boiler won't work, it might be because your condensate pipe has frozen. This is the pipe that takes the condensation from your boiler to the drain outside. There are a few things you can do to try and defrost the pipe before you call out a plumber or use your home emergency cover, if you have it. 

Try these steps to defrost your condensate pipe:

  • Hold a hot water bottle against the pipe or pour hot - not boiling - water over the frozen end of the pipe with a kettle or watering can 
  • Try switching on the boiler again and see if it fires up. If it does, it's fixed. If not, repeat the previous steps
  • Still no joy? Call a plumber or get in touch with your home emergency cover provider, who can send someone out. 

What to do if your frozen pipes burst

  1. Turn off the water at the main stop valve and switch off the central heating
  2. Drain cold water systems by flushing your toilet several times and running all cold taps until the flow dries up
  3. Thaw the pipe from the tap side of the frozen section by gently warming and work back towards the header tank
  4. If water is seeping through your ceilings, use buckets to collect
  5. If any electrical sockets are affected, turn off the main electrical supply immediately. Do not touch any electrics or wiring but call an electrician
  6. If you're able to do so safely, move any furniture away from the leak
  7. Leave windows and internal doors open if it's safe to do so, as this will help your property dry out and prevent mould  
  8. Contact Admiral on 0333 220 2035 for help and advice

After the storm - home and garden checklist 

frozen gutter

To help you get your house looking its best again, here are the areas to check for any storm damage. Just be aware and take care when you're walking near walls, buildings or trees that may have been damaged by the storm.

Types of damage

Check your roof after a storm 

It's something most of us probably don't look at everyday but very important if you want to keep your home warm and dry. 

High winds can cause roof tiles to loosen or rip off all together. Stand back and look at the roof to see if there are any visible problems like missing tiles or damaged flashing. 

Get into the attic and take a look from the inside to see if the roof appears to be sagging, if you can see light from outside or any patches of damp.

The word storm may not appear in your home insurance policy documents, because it’s actually a bit subjective.

Instead, to meet the criteria when making a claim, your home will usually needed to have suffered from the effects of exceptionally strong winds (often in excess of 54mph), sleet, snow, or heavy rain.

Many insurers only give a 24-hour window for storm damage claims, so it’s vital that you make one as soon as possible. 

Windows in your garden shed

Check the glass in your greenhouse, conservatory or outhouse. Strong winds could have caused branches to bang against windows and cause cracks, while heavy rain may have leaked through, highlighting weak spots or small cracks.

Checking your garden after a storm

It's not just your house which could’ve been affected, but your garden too. Look around for any obvious damage such as broken furniture or damage to the shed. 

Check any trees for loose branches or exposed roots. If a tree which has already been damaged causes any future damage it may affect an insurance claim.

Is the guttering intact?

Loose tiles or debris from the roof could slip into the guttering causing a blockage. It's important you clear any guttering after snow has hit. Any moss or leaves in your guttering will be prone to freezing so clear them out and get rid of any snow or ice that could weigh down your guttering and block or crack the pipes.

Boundary walls

Your Admiral policy excludes cover for fences, gates or hedges but may be able to help with cover for boundary walls blown down by stormy weather for which you’re liable. This is assumes the boundary wall was kept in a reasonable condition before the storm hit.

Flood damage

If your home has flooded, the damage could be devastating. From ruined carpets to destroyed furniture, the effects of a flood are impossible to disguise. 

Once the flood waters have subsided and it is safe to return home be sure to open your windows to allow your property to air out if it's safe to do so. Remember to check out our flood guide for a full list of what you'll need to do.

How to make a claim on your home insurance

 

  • Check your policy excess to decide if it's worth making a claim 
  • Call our team of claims experts on 0333 220 2035 for advice and to make a claim. There's no need to fill out a claim form as our claims handlers will record all the details for you. You can also register your claim online
  • To help the processing of your claim, make a list and take photos of anything damaged by the storm
  • Don't throw away anything that’s been damaged as it may need to be assessed - take photographs if possible
  • Keep receipts for any emergency repairs you make such as new panes of glass or roof repairs. We'll want to reach an agreement on making repairs before you go ahead, but also understand you don’t want a bad situation to get worse
  • If water is coming into your property, prevent further damage to your belongings by moving them if it’s safe to do so
  •  Arrange temporary repairs to prevent further damage but don’t put yourself at risk. An example of this could be arranging for local contractors to make a temporary fix for a damaged roof to stop rain getting in. Keep the invoices for any temporary works carried out as we'll need to see them.
  • Home Emergency is standard on Admiral Platinum cover and includes the cost of making a temporary repair using a tarpaulin or similar material. Check your documents to see if you have Home Emergency or contact us on 0345 609 4375

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